Ex-spa Co-ownergets Jail Time For Theft

April 6, 2019 GMT

WILKES-BARRE — For pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll taxes and employee health insurance money, the former co-owner of a Kingston day spa was sentenced Friday to serve up to two years in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.

Judith Cefaly, 54, of Rice Twp., pleaded guilty in February to a felony theft charge alleging she used hundreds of thousands of dollars in company money for personal expenses. At the time of the thefts, Cefaly was a minority owner and the general manager of the Shakti Day Spa at 311 Market St.

Prosecutors said the stolen money — estimated at $919,000 — included funds that were supposed to pay for employee health insurance.

“I trusted you for 34 years. You’ve had eight years to right these wrongs, and you’ve refused to even once apologize,” spa owner Leon “Lonny” McLaughlin told Cefaly during the hearing. “I feel sorry for you. Your selfish, greedy, behavior has damaged people’s lives.”

While Assistant District Attorney Greg Skibitsky left the sentence to the court’s discretion, defense attorney Mark Hinrichs urged the judge to consider Cefaly’s willingness to talk to police and to plead guilty in the case.

“My client’s taken responsibility,” he said.

Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough interjected to ask Cefaly — who had a salary of $57,000 as the spa’s manager — directly about the crime.

“What’d you do with a million dollars?” the judge asked.

Cefaly hesitated before saying she’d spent it.

“On what?” Vough asked.

“On my family,” Cefaly said.

The judge questioned whether such spending had been more important to Cefaly than her company and paying the business’ taxes. He then pressed her to name one specific item she purchased with the money. Cefaly said she bought granite counter tops.

“That’s the decision you made, and now you’re going to pay for that decision,” Vough said.

Vough ordered Cefaly to serve one to two years in the county jail, followed by seven years probation. He also ordered Cefaly to pay $750,000 in restitution to Shakti, an agreed amount between the parties.

Cefaly — who is set to be sentenced in June on a separate federal charge for stealing more than $646,000 in federal tax revenue — declined to comment as sheriff’s deputies escorted her from the courthouse.

McLaughlin said he hopes Cefaly uses her time behind bars to think about what she’s done and the people she’s affected. But he said he believes she will never be able to repay the money she stole, and that he was disappointed in the jail term she received.

“She’s getting off with two years and a work-release program,” McLaughlin said. “That’s just not justice for me. She took over a million dollars worth of money from people’s paychecks and from the business and health insurance money. It’s not justice, from my view.”

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